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Interior Design Masters exit interview with Domnall Starkie

interior design masters, series five
Interior Design Masters exit interview: DomnallBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

The fourth week of Interior Design Masters series five saw the six remaining contestants set off to Swansea, Wales, working in teams of two to transform three local cafes.

Head judge Michelle Ogundehin and guest adjudicator, restauranteur Nisha Katona, were seriously impressed by all three schemes, from Matt and Roisin's cosy community hub to Ben and Anthony's harmonious industrial chic makeover.

It was hard to guess who would be called to the sofa for interrogation – with one team member to be sent home – but after much deliberation they asked Domnall and Francesca to explain why, in Domnall’s own words, there was 'too much time spent bickering rather than getting stuff done' with their seafront cafe scheme.

Speaking to House Beautiful, Domnall Starkie, 46, from Derry, Northern Ireland, (find him on Instagram @smartswagdesign and at smartswag.co.uk) admits he’s a man with his own vision, and says Arnold Schwarzenegger gives him inspiration.

What's the one thing you did well and not so well in your task?

I was really pleased with the modular tables. Francesca wanted to go with more of a plain atmosphere. I thought it was going to look a bit like a prison cell. I think the only thing I kind of wished is that we [Francesca] had been able to communicate better.

interior design masters, series five
Domnall teamed up with Francesca to transform a cafeBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

What about the chairs that ended up too low?

I had originally wanted to use these other type of chairs but we went with school chairs and I came up with the solution of having the extenders. I wish I had said no. If we’d gone for the classic tulip chairs we wouldn’t have had to pay money for the extenders.

interior design masters, series five
BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

Teamwork then, not for you?

I work with my partner, Pauric Lawne. He’s just brilliant. I’m very creative, he’s very creative.

interior design masters, series five
BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

Tell us one thing that goes on behind the scenes that viewers don't know…

The trades are fantastic. They can do mostly anything. I came up with a lighting fixture with little fireflies for the Chester Zoo challenge. Phil helped me to put it together in about 20 minutes.

interior design masters, series five
Host Alan Carr (left) with Domnall (right) during the Chester Zoo challengeBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

What surprised you most during this whole process?

How intense it is. It’s not really like when you’re doing interiors normally, you’re taking your time, stepping back and having a look. It’s very speeded up. It’s like film actors doing a play then doing a film. It’s more natural when you’re doing a play.

Do you think you have what it takes to be an interior designer?

Yes, I already did it before I went on the show. Hopefully it comes across. I’m about more than graphic design. Maybe that has been the emphasis that has been put on it. I write poetry and illustrate children’s books, I’m also doing book covers as well. I do wall art, I upholster, I design furniture. I’m the type of person who will constantly push myself. You’ve got one life, if there’s something you want to do, you should do it. Arnold Schwarzenegger says your mind sets the limit. My mind ticks away all the time. My mum laughs at me – I was with her at the cemetery and I was redesigning the gravestones.

interior design masters, series five
BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

Time to manifest! Tell us, what do you think you’ll be doing this time next year?

I like to be as creative as possible. I do a lot of different things. But I’ll say that I’ll be doing more interiors. I’m a vegan. I’d feel hypocritical if I’m a vegan and use leather [for example]. So I like working with sustainable materials such as pineapple leather, which comes from the waste made during the pineapple harvest.

• Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr airs Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer

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